Thursday, June 10, 2010

Teaching Kids Practical Skills: Cooking

The question of how to teach kids to cook family meals came up on an e-mail list I'm on, and I thought I'd cheat a little today, and post parts of my response here. So please forgive me if this is the second time you've read these ideas of mine today! ;-)

I think there needs to be a balance between "Family Work", that everyone does together, and personal responsibility. And it IS a difficult groove to find!

Morganne mending her brother's swimsuit

In our family, we are currently in a place of transition, because we have had a wonderful system that works beautifully (the children do 85% of ALL the cleaning and cooking at my house), BUT our older Scholars now need less housework so they can have more study time. So we have been in process for the last month or so, of assigning stewardships to the biggest two kids, and reducing the number of chores they do for each meal. My oldest daughter now has the stewardship of cooking dinner every weeknight (except mutual night), and my eldest son takes care of ALL the yardwork in the front and back yard.

Southwest Stuffed Braided Bread dinner made by Morganne 

These are bigger responsibilities that they would not be able to handle if it had not been for the training they have received in learning to perform daily chores on their own. We live in the city, and we like it here! There IS still plenty of useful, needed work for my children to do, and I want them to be trained to know how to work and take care of a home and of themselves. Of course there are still reminders, and some objections, but I remind myself that parenting is about TRAINING, not about perfection. Is my house perfectly clean? No way! But everyone knows their duty, everyone has their turn, and they all know how needed their efforts are in order for us to have a home that functions the way we all need it to.

Bonny, age 11, loading the dishwasher

As for cooking, when my children get to the age of nine or so, I start adding them into the cooking rotation on lunches. (easy meal!) In all but one case (I have a 13 year old chef-son) my girls have progressed faster in the cooking arena than the boys. They start asking to bake treats, and I let them. Yes, we've had some FUNNY experiences when kids didn't have their fractions down yet, (11 cups of sugar in cookies once! O_o Still not sure how that one happened! LOL!) but my philosophy has become "Failure is the greatest teacher!" Over time, I add them to the rotation of cooking breakfast, and lastly to dinner. I really try to observe them closely, so that they don't get overwhelmed. Just because they CAN make dinner well, doesn't mean they can handle it more than once or twice a week. But my sixteen year old daughter is now a pro at it-- she can AND she likes to make and plan dinner every night!

Bagels are a quick and easy breakfast-- we do BUY them!

I get kids started cooking by giving them a 3 ring binder to copy down recipes in to when they learn how to cook a certain dish. Over time, after they've got a good grasp on most cooking and baking basics, they start adding recipes they want to try, or have created themselves. It's so fun to see their accomplishments grow as their cook books grow! It's a great indicator of what they know, and what else they need to learn.

For me, I HIGHLY value teaching practical skills-- second only to spiritual training, of course! Academics come, and I have personally seen academic gaps get filled pretty quickly. But life skills and homemaking skills follow the "law of the harvest" very closely. If my kids don't learn how to care for themselves and a household before they leave my home, then I feel I have not done enough.


  1. I LOVE your idea of the 3-ring binder. I would have loved to have known how to cook when I left home, too. I only knew how to make cookies or a boxed cake! I'm definitely going to follow your example with my own girls. They really love to help me in the kitchen. I can't imagine how much more fun they'd have if they got to look through their OWN binder of recipes (or, right now, pictures of the things they like to help with) to choose what to put on our menus! THANKS!

  2. Thank you for the idea about every child having their own binder for recipes. I wish my mom had done this with me and my siblings. Then maybe we wouldn't fight over her recipe box.

  3. Thanks for sharing. My oldest is only 11 and the two oldest are the ones that help with meals, so it's fun to see how things work in a family with older kids.

  4. Rachel I just found your blog and have had a chance to sit and read a while. I just want you to know that your blog is so uplifting.I've enjoyed reading it!

  5. Thanks, ladies! I love having you visit my blog! :)


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